Plan, purchase, and prepare the devices necessary to bring digital learning to your school or district.
After the needs assessment is completed and the project leadership team has identified the district or school’s device and software needs, the purchasing phase begins. Purchasing equipment can be challenging because there are often state and district purchasing restrictions, rules, and approvals. For example, purchases over a certain cost frequently require approval by a district’s board of education, and in some states, only items on an approved list can be purchased. The project leaders will need to work closely with their IT department and operations team, including school finance and procurement officers, to ensure compliance. Most importantly, schools will need to determine what funds are available to purchase devices and support the project.
Based on the needs assessment (see “Conducting a Needs Assessment”), districts and schools will identify whether they require additional devices and the specifications and quantity of new devices needed. In addition to the devices currently needed, districts and schools should maintain additional devices (at least five percent) to use as spares while main devices are repaired.
A typical procurement process includes the following steps:
- Identify device specifications, including form factor, operating system, storage, and other requirements to support learning. Schools should review the instructional needs assessment and consider age-appropriate devices, such as tablets for elementary and middle school students and laptops for high school students.
- Identify quantities for each device type, including devices for teachers, educational assistants, administrators, and students.
- Identify peripheral devices such as cases, keyboards, charging cables, or headphones.
- Determine whether or not a sole source approval is desirable. If not, prepare a Request for Quote (RFQ) or Request for Proposal (RFP) with the device and quantity details, delivery information, and due date.
- Identify vendors for RFQ/RFP and release RFQ/RFP for bids.
- Review quotes/proposals, according to district policy.
- Select/recommend winning quote/proposal and award according to district policy.
A digital learning program needs an efficient system to track device assignments to students and teachers. Several options include shared spreadsheets, the library book circulation system, and the IT help desk system. These records, which should be managed by assigned staff, need to be accessible and updated when device assignments change. Devices are typically assigned a unique number on a scannable asset tag for easy identification.
During this planning process, determine the amount of administrative control that will be given to students so they can complete their work while using devices safely. The amount of control given to students could vary depending on where and how devices are used.
Storing and Distributing Devices
Devices need to be prepared to distribute to users. Some schools have their personnel do this work, while others have this done by a service provider and the devices arrive ready to be distributed (a third-party provider may charge $15–20 per device for this work). Device preparation includes receiving, unboxing, inspecting and testing for damage, adding asset tags, adding cases (if tablets), and installing the management system, selected apps, software, and updates. Other factors to consider for device preparation include:
- Receiving devices in a secure location and ensuring secure storage
- Providing space to prepare devices if not being done by third-party provider
- Maintaining a project calendar so the work is completed on schedule
- Coordinating with special education teachers to ensure specialized software and hardware is provided to students with an IEP or 504 plan
- Designing a distribution process that is inclusive and flexible for families (consider including families and key community members in designing this process)
- Are additional digital learning devices, software, and peripherals necessary for digital learning within the district or school? If so, what quantities are necessary?
- What is the necessary financial investment to ensure all students have access to digital learning?
- What funding source will be used to procure digital learning devices, software, and peripherals?
- Which budgets will be reduced to transition funds to digital learning?
- If additional funding is necessary, where will the district or school seek funding?
- What are the current systems for technology procurement, inventory, management, and distribution? Are there gaps in these systems?
- How will you identify vendors, receive quotes, and purchase devices?
- What are the necessary specifications of the new devices?
- What software is required for new and existing devices?
- What is the identified preparation timeline?
- When devices are received, where will they be securely received and stored?
- How will devices be prepared for distribution?
- How will devices be managed and tracked?
- Will you utilize a content management system?
- What is the level of administrative control given to students? Does the administrative control allow students to use their devices effectively when they are not at school?
Tools and Resources
- U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology: Building Technology Infrastructure for Learning
- Digital Learning Now: Smart Series Guide to Edtech Procurement
Budgeting and Funding
- U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology: Funding Digital Learning
- State Educational Technology Directors Association: Budgeting Guidance for Digital Learning
- Future Ready Schools: The Future Ready Framework: Budget and Resources
- New Jersey Department of Education: Transformative Budgeting for Digital Learning
- Virginia Department of Education: Educational Technology Guidelines
- Digital Promise: Improving Edtech Purchasing
- State Educational Technology Directors Association: Guide to Edtech Purchasing
- Lea(R)n: Research-Based Rubric for Grading EdTech
- Edtech Equity Project: School Procurement Guide: Buying Edtech Products with Racial Equity in Mind
Storing and Distributing Devices